Craig Leonard

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Why Stevia Is Not the Miracle Sweetener You Think It Is

Craig Leonard October 11, 2014
Stevia Health Dangers

The dangers of ingesting sugar have been well documented and people have been heeding the message for some time now. Well, sort of.

While it’s common knowledge that excessive sugar consumption isn’t exactly healthy, the average American still consumes more than 4 times what heart.org considers to be a safe daily allowance for added sugars. This equates to a staggering 130lbs of added sugar consumption per year, per American. That’s nearly 6 ounces of added sugar being ingested in the average day by every American citizen.

6 ounces of added sugar in a day is a LOT of sugar! To give you a better idea, here’s what 6 ounces of sugar looks like when weighed on a digital food scale:

6 Ounces of Sugar - Stevia

Keep in mind that this amount is strictly from added sugars. It doesn’t even include the sugar that’s created within the body as naturally occurring carbohydrates are digested and converted to glucose. With all these extraneous sugars being ingested, is it any wonder that we have such an epic battle going on with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer?

The 1970’s are long gone and in 2014 sugar’s unhealthy characteristics aren’t controversial anymore. The dangers of ingesting sugar have been documented for decades now and most everybody knows that sugar is best to be avoided as often as possible.

Unfortunately, though, in an attempt to reduce their sugar intake, American’s have become hooked on artificial sweetening substitutes instead. Countless hours of research informs my personal conviction that artificial sweeteners promote fat gain, can cause miscarriages, give people chronic headaches and migraines, compromise the immune system, lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes, are at least as addictive to humans as sugar, are highly toxic in the amounts typically consumed, and are directly contributing to the proliferation of disease and premature death spiraling out of control in America today.

People are starting to come around to this truth, as well. The gradually increasing awareness of the potential dangers associated with sugars and artificial sweeteners has led to the rise of the next sweetening superstar, promising to satisfy America’s sweet tooth without the consequences of fat gain and insulin resistance: Stevia.

Stevia’s a plant that’s indigenous to South America. It has unique properties that seem almost too good to be true. For instance, whole leaf stevia is 100% natural, zero-calorie, 200+ times sweeter than sugar, and has no known impact on insulin levels.

What this means is, as it stands today, stevia is a sweetener that can be ingested without compromising fat loss, promoting insulin resistance and the onset of type 2 diabetes, or increasing the risk of developing any of the myriad conditions and diseases associated with refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Except for the fact that stevia being sold in the U.S. has been corrupted.

Stevia Has Been Corrupted

Unfortunately, there’s always somebody looking to take what’s good, natural and safe, and corrupt it for the sake of earning a profit. Food manufacturers seem to always find ways to put their “synthetic” signatures on things, patent it under their brand, and make millions off of naive, unsuspecting consumers.

This is precisely what’s happened to stevia. It’s been hijacked by those who wish to pervert what God has made naturally good and turn it into a health-eroding abomination for the sake of lining their company coffers.

The fact that companies can’t patent stevia in its natural, whole leaf form is precisely what made it take so long for it to get past the conflated corruption that exists between the food corporations and bureaucrats in Washington.

In fact, this corruption led to the FDA banning stevia imports in 1991, allegedly under pressure by Nutrasweet, who rightly feared that stevia was a threat to the artificial sweetener market, a market Nutrasweet had come to dominate. Fortunately, a legal loophole forced the FDA to rescind its ban on stevia imports a few years later in 1995. Unfortunately, though, stevia still wasn’t approved for use as a food additive and couldn’t legally be called a “sweetener”.

It could only be sold and labeled as a “dietary supplement”. Apparently, because calling it a sweetener would have allowed stevia to invade the precious sweetener market being dominated at the time by producers of synthetic, toxic, artificial sweeteners, who are believed to have lobbied to make sure stevia couldn’t become a direct competitor and penetrate the market in which they held such a sizable market share.

After all, if natural stevia sweetener products were to be placed on a shelf next to proven-to-be-dangerous artificial sweeteners, it likely wouldn’t end well for the synthetic impostors.

Fast forward more than a decade to 2008. Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. have now developed patented means of chemically extracting rebaudioside compounds out of the stevia plant and are using them as FDA approved sweetening additives in their food and beverage products. Extracting these rebaudioside compounds (such as Reb-A) from the stevia leaf involves a process consisting of about 40 steps, relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol to perform the extraction.

The carcinogenic (cancer-causing) potential of these chemicals remains unknown. Still, common sense tells us that regularly ingesting toxic chemicals such as these will come at a price. I don’t need a study to tell me that ingesting acetone in any amount is a bad idea.

While companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. have successfully gained FDA-approved status for the patented process of extracting isolated components out of the stevia plant, the FDA still hasn’t permitted the use of whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts in foods because, in its own words, “these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive”.

What this means is that the stevia you’re buying at the store, thinking it’s 100% natural and healthy (because it’s labeled with words that falsely communicate this exact message), is anything but natural. You’re not getting crude or whole leaf (i.e. natural) Stevia with virtually any of the popular “stevia” brands sold by commercial grocers.

You’re getting the rebaudioside stevia compounds that have been chemically extracted out and sold in a box with the words “Stevia” and “Natural” slapped on it in order to make consumers feel warm and fuzzy about their decision to buy it, ingest it and feed it to their families.

Truvia Is Not Stevia

Don’t be deceived by gimmicky labels and clever wording. Stevia products sold in the U.S. aren’t pure or natural. It’s a chemically isolated and extracted derivative that bears little semblance of the plant from which it came. In other words, all the properties for which Stevia could otherwise be admired have been all but processed out in a scheme to isolate the sweetest parts of the leaf using patented processes that make it much more financially lucrative for those using them.

This deceitful practice can be easily verified by looking at the ingredients list of any popular “Stevia” product sold in the U.S.

For instance, you’ll notice Truvia lists erythritol and rebiana in its ingredients list on the package shown above. Erythritol is a corn-derived sweetening agent made almost exclusively from genetically engineered corn through a complex chemical fermentation process.

Rebiana describes one of the compounds created through the patented chemical extraction process mentioned above that is used by Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co.

Beware of Clever (And Deceitful) Stevia Ingredient Lists

While at my local grocer tonight, I discovered that Truvia has recently changed its ingredients list to be much more innocent. What used to read as “Rebiana” has now been replaced with the words “Stevia Extract”.

See what they did there? Rebiana sounds nothing like stevia, leaving astute customers to wonder, “Where’s the stevia?” While technically accurate, by changing the label to say “Stevia Extract”, Cargill has successfully given its more trusting potential customers little reason to question the numerous “natural” references strewn about all over the Truvia box.

Other brands like Stevia in the Raw contain dextrose, which is also derived from genetically engineered corn, using a chemical extraction process as long and complicated as the one that produces erythritol.

The dextrose used in Stevia in the Raw is disclosed on their website as being used as a filler. You see, the stevia extract that’s produced is up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. So it would take only a pinch to replicate the level of sweetness provided by an entire teaspoon of table sugar.

By “filling” each packet of their stevia extract sweetener with other “natural” sweeteners, like dextrose, manufacturers are able to provide their customers with a dulled sweetener that contains more powder for them to work with. Whether or not this is done as a means of increasing profits, or truly as a way to make using the product more measurable, is unbeknownst to me.

What you must know, however, is the fact that dextrose is not a zero-calorie sweetener – and it isn’t natural. Stevia sweeteners that contain dextrose cannot truly be zero calorie, no matter what the nutrition label may say to the contrary.

It’s an established fact that one teaspoon of dextrose contains 12 calories. You might be wondering how brands like Stevia in the Raw are able to label their products as being zero-calorie while containing dextrose. It all comes down to the published serving size.

You see, the FDA dictates that a food can be legally labeled as “zero-calorie” as long as a published serving size does not contain any more than 4 calories. In other words, as long as a stevia sweetener packet has its dextrose content limited to not exceed this 4 calorie limit, labeling the product as zero-calorie is perfectly legal.

This deception is only conflated by the many references to Stevia in the Raw being “natural” found on its packaging. It’s almost laughable that anything that’s produced from a plant can be legally claimed to be “natural”, and labeled as such in the U.S., regardless of the number of chemicals applied to it in order to extract specific isolated components from it.

So make sure you look at the ingredients list and don’t just blindly trust that because a product is labeled as “natural” that it’s indeed natural or safe.

That said, the label for Stevia in the Raw clearly states that dextrose is a natural ingredient as follows:

“Stevia is naturally sweeter than sugar. So, like many zero calorie sweeteners, it is blended with dextrose, a natural ingredient. This helps create the perfect balance of sweetness, making it easier to both pour and measure.”

Again, this is perfectly legal – even though I’ve yet to come across a dextrose tree growing out in nature. But they must exist somewhere if a food manufacturer would call dextrose a natural ingredient. Surely these entities – including the FDA that sets the laws that govern them – wouldn’t think it ethical to tell consumers that a chemically isolated ingredient deserves the same health-affirming description as something like a stalk of broccoli or a banana.

Are you reading the sarcasm? I should hope so because I’m laying it on pretty thick.

Stevia Products Sold In the U.S. Are Toxic, Unnatural and Untested for Long-Term Human Safety

Whether it comes from Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, or some other pre-packaged “stevia” product sold in the U.S., what you’re getting contains some amount of toxic chemicals, is produced via methods that are decidedly unnatural, and has not been tested for long-term human safety.

Always remember, the chemical extraction process used to isolate certain plant molecules is never 100% efficient. What this means is that the end result is never 100% pure, with the impurities being comprised of residual chemicals left over from the extraction process, other ingredients being used in various processes around the plant where it’s produced, and whatever else that happens to make its way into the batch.

Impurities notwithstanding, I implore all of my readers to be very skeptical of any ingredient that’s been chemically isolated from its natural source. Isolated components do not behave the same once inside the body as they do when they’re holistically in tact as part of their natural biological surroundings. A great example of this is the drug, cocaine.

Eating or sniffing a ground up coca leaf in its natural form does not induce any sort of high. And it isn’t addictive, whatsoever.

However, once the cocaine is isolated from the leaf by chemical extraction – a process with an end result the FDA would consider “natural”, by the way – the effect it has on human biology is notably different. And this is just one of numerous examples that lend evidence to the fact that the body does not react the same way to isolated plant components as it does when the components are consumed as part of the whole organism in its truly natural state.

The result of chemically isolating plant components is not natural. I don’t care what the FDA’s shoddy definitions may say to the contrary.

As Kevin Spelman, PhD, and principal scientist at Herb Pharm, a company that makes herbal extracts, succinctly explains:

“The concentrated extraction of one particular fraction of stevia that exists in the little green packet is a far reach from how stevia appears in nature. Once you extract a molecule from a plant, the plant’s safety profile changes. If you extract a single molecule from a plant, you are potentially bypassing the inherent [holistic] safety mechanism that is typical of whole-plant extracts.”

Be it rebaudioside molecules isolated from the stevia plant, or ingredients like dextrose, high fructose corn syrup and erythritol that are molecularly isolated from corn, my advice is to steer clear of any chemically isolated ingredients as often as possible.

So what options are we left with? Are there any safe Stevia products out there?

Crude Stevia and whole leaf Stevia are the only true natural sweetener forms of the plant and they’re the only ones I would consider trustworthy. Unfortunately, because of the laws that exist in the United States, you’re not going to find a brand of Stevia sold in the U.S. that isn’t made from Stevia “extract” (not legally anyway).

Even after considering everything I’ve covered so far, there are those who will understandably reason that using a sweetener like Truvia is still a safer alternative than using artificial sweeteners like aspartame or ingesting table sugar. While this may seem reasonable, it remains to be seen whether rebaudioside extract from the stevia plant is as safe as people hope it is.

And then there are the other chemically isolated fillers like dextrose and erythritol that also have many people concerned. With no long-term studies confirming their safety for human consumption, I, for one, am committed to avoiding these ingredients as often as I can.

Erythritol is known to cause diarrhea and bloating. Call me crazy, but anything the body reacts to in this manner isn’t something I deem to be good or healthy. If it does these things to the body soon after being ingested, this is reason enough for me to be skeptical of the damage it may do to the body over the course of a number of years of regularly ingesting it.

Why Not Grow Your Own Stevia?

When it comes to stevia, the best option is for you to grow your own stevia plant. For now there are no laws in the U.S. that would prevent you from doing so.

If you grow your own stevia plant, you can use it by either adding fresh leaves to your beverages like teas and coffee (be sure to experiment to find the amount of Stevia leaf that is right for your tastes), or by creating your own crude stevia liquid that you can drop into to your favorite drinks and recipes.

I’ve never made my own crude Stevia before, but Vani Hari from FoodBabe.com provides a very simple 5-step process for doing so:

How To Make Crude Stevia Liquid From Home

Note: If you prefer an alcohol-free extraction process, you can simply replace the organic vodka with water. Just be aware that using water will result in less crude stevia being extracted as alcohol serves as a catalyst in the extraction process.

Before I sign-off, I have to mention that Nick Pineault was one of the first to draw my attention to the deceptive practices of Stevia manufacturers. As you’ve probably guessed, this kind of misinformation isn’t solely relegated to stevia products. It abounds in the malaise of food campaigns and corporate misdirection aimed at keeping consumers confused and uninformed.

If you’d like to learn about dozens of other foods that you need to exercise discernment before buying, for the sake of your health and the health of your family I can’t recommend Nick’s Truth About Fat Burning Foods book enough.

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy right now and read through it as soon as you can. Trust me, you won’t regret it. I will warn you, though, that you’ll never look at many of your favorite foods the same way again.

Finally, I apologize if this article has ruined your ability to enjoy using your favorite brand of stevia sweetener with a clear conscience. I suppose I could be like others and tell your itching ears what they want to hear.

I could tell you that consuming sugar, artificial sweeteners and other sweetening agents made with chemically isolated ingredients is safe. I could tell you that it’s okay to blindly trust that because the label on your favorite sweetener proclaims it to be natural it necessarily makes it so.

I could. Except that I have more integrity than to knowingly deceive those who land on this blog with misinformation and fabrications that serve no other purpose than to make them feel good by affirming their dangerous habits.

The only advice I can give you with a clear conscience is that it’s best for now to avoid purchasing or consuming stevia products distributed within the borders of the United States.

Until it becomes legal for whole leaf stevia or crude stevia extract to be sold in the U.S., you should consider any “stevia” product to be tainted, unnatural, questionable in terms of its healthfulness, and undeserving of you investing your hard-earned money in it.

Or, you can ignore my advice and just continue buying the lie that anything called “stevia” is safe, natural and healthy. I suppose that’s your choice. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Speaking of lies propagating around this industry, why not sign up below to receive your free copy of my fat loss program, Round the Clock Fat Loss, and learn how to overcome all the lies that are keeping you from losing all of your unhealthy and unwanted body fat?

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